Last week in therapy, I stopped breathing.
I didn't even realize it.
We were talking about why I think I'm stuck here at 300 (yes, I'm back to 300. Making it only 66 pounds lost this year.) We were going over the things that happened when I first hit this weight.
It was 2001. I had just graduated from college. The end of most people's higher education seems to take the shape of soaring crescendo. Mine looked like that pathetic "waaah-waaaaah" of a trumpet that signals ineptitude on a game show. It started looking pretty shaky when my heart was broken (and I mean smashed - and I mean, for years) around semester break, but I pushed through to March for my senior thesis, directing a one-act play by Madeleine George called The Most Massive Woman Wins. The four wonderful ladies in the cast kept me going, along with my roommate, tech director and all-around best friend, Matt.
But when that was over... well, what did I have left? No more theater. No love interest in my life. No clue what to do after school ended. And according to my senior audit, I had two more semesters of school left. Turns out when you're in two different colleges within one big university, they sometimes require 50 extra credits of you, even when you've otherwise fulfilled all of your degree requirements.
There was no final internship or real-world job-search for me after "walking" in my cap and gown. Instead, I spent the spring and summer in Ann Arbor. Other than the first and only math of my college career (an advanced statistics class which my adviser mistook for an introductory class) I decided to take a full slate of film classes, because that's what sounded compelling. (On the up-side, 50 credits of it-doesn't-matter-what-you take did point me in the right direction for my career and eventual move to Los Angeles.)
On my way into that very last final - the inappropriately non-introductory stats - I prayed to any deity that would listen: LET ME OUT OF HERE. I wanted to get to California immediately, but I had no money. So after I passed stats-for-not-beginners, I did what haunts the dreams of all college graduates... I moved back in with my parents.
I love my parents. You know I love my parents. My parents know I love my parents. They are terrific people. They helped me save up money to get a car and a down payment on an apartment, and even loaned me a little extra in case the temp jobs didn't kick in right away. Despite my mom's ill health and my quest for a career in an industry that's breakneckingly competitive at best, they even encouraged me to follow my dreams. My dad even drove with me across country with a truck full of my belongings, toward a city thousands of miles away where no job, family, friends or even apartment awaited. They are/were GREAT PARENTS.
But if you put a 22-year-old, who has lived on her own for four years, back in her parents' house... everybody's in for quite a shock. Those eight months in Midland were possibly some of my darkest. I temped as an office assistant at the Company Town's company from 8 to 5, and then I sequestered myself into my childhood bedroom between the hours of 6 and 8 to watch the first syndicated showings of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on a tiny TV. Around 8, depending on the day, I might or might not have staggered bleary-eyed into the living room. Or kitchen. Definitely the kitchen.
I was lonely. For my friends. For Ann Arbor, and all its Culture and its cultures, and everything it represented. For freakin' sushi. (Oh, timing -- Midland didn't open its first Japanese restaurant until six months after I moved to LA.) I was lonely for my freedom.
Wonderful though my parents were, being back in their home meant being back under their rules. There was a curfew. There was no heading out to a bar alone, which wasn't my style anyway, but I was desperate for some socializing. My one close friend in the area was a bride-to-be/on her honeymoon/a newlywed, and though she was lovely and kind, there's only so much wedded bliss a single bridesmaid can take. Except for Willow and Xander - and they were fictional - I felt very, very alone. (Side note: little did I know that my future husband felt the exact same way at the exact same time.)
So I ate. And I ate. I ate at the first hint of heartbreak in my senior year, ordering the first of many 2 AM deliveries of Pizza House pepperoni breadsticks and milkshakes with my roommate. I ate during my thesis - a play set in a liposuction clinic - having baked Valentine's cupcakes for no Valentine in particular. I ate when we found the Girl Scouts special edition Samoa ice cream. ("Please, sir, I want Samoa," we joked.) I ate sushi when I left the Ann Arbor for the last time. I really ate in Midland. Fast food. Slow food. My parents' food. My own stash. Sometimes all in the same night. Brazenly, not caring who saw me. Secretly, not wanting to share. Not wanting to be judged. I ate.
I was finishing this thought when my therapist interrupted me. "I'm sorry, but I really have to ask you to breathe."
I had been expressing all of that pent-up sadness -- and anger, my therapist tells me -- and I had no idea that I'd been hyperventilating the whole time. I took a breath. I tried to make it a deep one. It seemed impossible.
Since my therapy session last week, the concept keeps popping up again and again in my brain.
In my life, I have gained so much weight that I now cannot breathe at night without the help of a machine.
When I binged, I binged until I could hardly breathe. And I certainly couldn't move well without breathing well.
When I exercise, I exhale. I breathe out emotional smoke - from the embers of suppressed anger, into which I can so rarely tap.
To fully take care of myself, I must leave enough room to breathe. In my stomach. In my schedule. In my heart.
Today, I will do that by posting on this blog - because holding my words back here is holding me back. I will do that by planning my food, preparing my food, and eating my food mindfully. I will do that by sweating at Slimmons, focusing each breath to release of whatever it is inside of me, blocking my progress.
I hope you'll take care of you today. And I hope you'll breathe.